tv Studio 1.0 Bloomberg October 3, 2015 10:30am-11:01am EDT
♪ emily: it is a show about a bunch of geeks locked in a house, writing code. a most unsexy, un-hollywood premise that is now an hbo hit. the show is named after the world it lampoons. "silicon valley." it pokes fun at the secrecy behind the place where people can make millions overnight. behind the show, people that brought us some of the greatest satire in entertainment history. mike judge of "office space" and "beavis and butthead" fame, and alec berg, a top writer on "seinfeld." joining me today, "silicon
valley" creator mike judge and executive producer alec berg. thank you so much for joining us. very excited to have you. i am a big fan. i have seen every episode. i know you have both written, produced, and directed several different episodes. what is different about season two? mike: alec? alec: the biggest thing we have had to deal with is the loss of christopher evan welch, who played peter gregory. he was kind of the cornerstone of season one. he was the guy richard ended up going with, financing-wise. that was a huge, huge hole to fill. and writing-wise, a challenge to try and figure out what the hell we're going to do with him. emily: he was terrific and i understand he is being replaced by a woman? mike: not necessarily replaced. his firm, she becomes the lead partner, this new character that was not in season one. played by suzanne cryer. but he is -- it is not
necessarily one for one. we did not really think of it as you can replace him with anybody. but we had to write around that. this is -- second season is the story about what happens to a company. them going to the next level. emily: everybody wants to know, is there a good dick joke in this series? i mean, that is -- mike: there is at least one. i think it is a good one. emily: is it as dick joke-worthy as the one in season one? alec: we love all of our babies. [laughter] it is hard to say which dick joke is better than another dick joke. emily: but seriously, that moment is probably one of the most talked about moments of season one. i feel like it is indicative of how you guys put this show together. because it is technically correct. i know you spent a lot of research on the technical part of things. tell me, actually, about how that came to be.
alec: when mike and i first started talking about working on the show, we bonded over the fact is that what we hate more than anything is technically incorrect dick jokes. we just decided, we vowed from that point forward, if we do dick jokes, they are going to be technically correct. they may not be funny, but they will be correct. so far i think we have stayed with that. emily: mike, you are an engineer. you worked in silicon valley, once upon a time, yourself. so you know a little about this world. mike: i had fun on that one. believe it or not, this guy who got his phd after he finished season one was the compression consultant. we asked him, for that dick joke -- we had a lot of our technical stuff about the various angles and whatnot. he kind of went to town on this. it came out of one of the writers, matteo borghese. he was just completely
separately talking about, a discussion with his roommates about how you could -- i don't know what you can say on this show. alec: manipulate? mike: manipulate four men at the same time. alec overheard this and said, i think we have got it. [laughter] alec: that is my own personal "beautiful mind" moment. [laughter] emily: i just got spit on. i just got spit on. mike: i am sorry. are you ok? emily: no, i am good. very meta. mike: i just did a spit take. alec: they call it a classic for a reason. emily: so really -- mike: i will take a real drink of water. emily: you guys do a lot of research for the show. i know you come up here often. tell me a little bit about that. mike: a lot of what we -- our stories just come from real stories up here. i think we both have this desire to really just dig in and find out more about the real world and what these people really do. they just kept occurring to us, i do not know what these people are doing. i mean, i used to program a
little bit. but i was not building apps and platforms, i was doing a different kind of test engineering thing. and so the more we dug into it, the more great stuff we found. emily: tell me about your time in silicon valley. mike: it was a long time ago. i worked -- my first job up here was for a company called parallax graphics. they made what would be called a gpu now, graphics interfaces. this was in 1987. worked there for a few months. emily: why did you leave? mike: i did not enjoy it too much. i think -- emily: you thought you might write a show about it instead? mike: the movie "office space" was kind of more about why i would leave that job. i don't know, i just wanted to do something else. emily: the hot shows used to be about doctors and lawyers. why write about silicon valley and computer geeks? like, where does silicon valley fit in this arc of entertainment history? mike: you do not think these guys are hot? emily: maybe if they are worth a
billion dollars. alec: we kind of ask ourselves that on a daily basis. like, why did we decide to do a show about people who sit and type all day? and what they do literally 16 hours a day is inherently unfilmable. it is a challenge. emily: i said it was unsexy. unglamorous. unfunny. alec: mistakes were made. it could not be more relevant. you look at the speed at which tech is moving and the role that it plays in our life. mike: i think hollywood has always been very puzzled. like when the internet first just exploded and was everywhere, they tried a movie called "the net." they tried to make it all sexy and intriguing. and it just was kind of ridiculous. this was an interesting challenge just because, as alec says, it is unfilmable. but also, that challenge can lead you to do more interesting stuff that has not been done in television. so it seems like a good time to take a look at the people who are getting rich off of it and building all these things that
we use everyday. emily: when you ask doctors about "grey's anatomy," i feel like they say that it is nothing like that. what do you want engineers to say about "silicon valley"? how important is it to you to get it right? mike: i always like it when they say -- we have a lot of people saying that we have gotten it right, for the most part. that is what we want. alec: we try to get the technical details right. we do a lot of research and have a lot of consultants who ask a lot of questions. but i think it is also just the personality types. in that world. mike was an engineer, and my dad is a biophysicist. my brother is a computer guy. his wife works at microsoft. i feel like i know those personalities and he knows those personalities, so it is really about that attitude. mike: i also feel like it is good if we can make the actual people who work in this world actually laugh and enjoy it on that level, that is good to.
o. so far, it seems like for the most part, that has been the case. i mean, there are a few haters out there. emily: i have to mention elon musk. because -- alec: nice segue. emily: he did at one point say, he told "recode," "none of those characters are software engineers. software engineers are more helpful, thoughtful, and smarter. they are weird, but not in the same way. i really feel like mike judge has never been to burning man, which is silicon valley. if you have not been, you just do not get it." have you ever been to burning man, first of all? to get the record straight. mike: i have not. he is right about that. alec: he did, just last week, light a man on fire. emily: that has to count for something. mike: one step at a time. emily: how do you respond to that? mike: elon musk is at the top of the game here. he is not -- he might see things a little differently. i mean he, you know, i am not ever going to say that elon musk -- that i know silicon valley better than elon musk. we are looking for comedy here,
not to just glorify and put it up on a pedestal. emily: mark andreessen is a huge fan. peter thiel, another venture capitalist, also a huge fan, even though you perhaps may poke fun at him in season one with a guy named peter gregory. i know that some of these people you talk to on a regular basis. so who did you talk to make sure you were getting it right? to make sure you had geek cred? mike: lots of people. early on, i didn't -- before this went to series, i did not have quite the resources, so one of my best friends from high school, his nephew is a top programmer at google. there was a lawyer we had a connection to who works with startups. but once we got going, we went all over the place. went to google, facebook, yelp. emily: larry, sergey, and mark zuckerberg, were they happy to talk to you? mike: we have not met them yet.
alec: no. though we did see that larry and sergey were wearing our shirts when they did the ice bucket challenge. emily: ok. mike: they had a houli and a pied piper shirt on. emily: what is your take on the sexism issue in silicon valley? mike: it is kind of surprising to me that it took this long for anything like this to happen. ♪
emily: i wonder, is it at all strange critiquing silicon valley from hollywood? which is its own epicenter of anxiety and ego. alec: i think there are actually a huge number of similarities. we pitch pilots, entrepreneurs pitch startups to seed investors. we do season one, and they do series a. so it feels natural, and there is no shortage of ego or, you know, pompousness in either business. emily: you often hear entrepreneurs and ceos say they are trying to change the world.
and make the world a better place. what do you think they are doing? mike: some of them are making the world a better place. not to say that hollywood is better. but i am sure that the top successful people in hollywood, like j.j. abrams and chuck lorre, are not saying, my shows are making the world a better place by making people laugh. you know, you just want to make good stuff. it is just a different culture. they just have more money up here. that is all. emily: a lot. mike: they do not flash wealth in silicon valley the way they do in hollywood. or especially they way they used to 20 years ago. alec: it is an interesting code. that you cannot drive a car because it is pompous, but you can fly 50 of your friends to france for the weekend and have a million-dollar party. emily: or burning man, right. mike, your movie, "idiocracy," portrayed a future in which people are getting stupider because everything is so easy,
and they are lazy. we live in a world where we do not have to drive, thanks to uber, we do not have to cook things to muncherie. groceries are delivered by amazon. are we on a path to a real-world "idiocracy?" mike: yes, probably so. [laughter] i don't know. that -- i would not take that movie too seriously. i was just sort of exaggerating things the way they are. i mean, maybe it is making the world a better place. i like uber. emily: who in tech is most overdue for lampooning? mike: tom perkins. [laughter] if i can name names. alec: it is funny. because there is so much lag time between when we write the show and when it airs, it is almost a full year. we started writing in june and until april.ome on so it is 10 months from when we start writing to when the shows start to hit air. so much of what happens that we
want to sort of go after happens after we have written shows but before we have aired. it always feels like there is a stockpile. emily: you're writing history before it happens. mike: sometimes we have gotten lucky -- or unlucky, depending on how you look at it -- where we do something on the show and in between the time we shoot it and it comes out, it has happened in the real world. emily: what would you like to happen in the real world silicon valley? like, it would power the show for three more seasons? alec: honestly, just keep doing what you are doing. it seems like every time we try and make up what is the crazy next thing, the real crazy next thing happens and it's even crazier than what we could make up. emily: so in the next season, all the unicorns are going to blow up, and the bubble is going to burst, and you have already written it? mike: we were talking about that. we would be taking these meetings and people would , describe deals that happened. saying oh, this is like, i do not know, 50 million users from this app were worth this much. and we flipped it.
we found ourselves going is there a giant bubble that is about to burst here somewhere? i would like to see the bubble not burst. that would not be good for anybody. emily: but do you think there is one? alec: one of the things we wanted to do was make it hard for them to get money to fund of this company, because that is more compelling. he kept asking people, what are the reasons that they could not get $10 million or $15 million in funding, and the people we talked to kept saying, there is no reason. well, if you had to invent, make up in reason why, hypothetically, so the show was more interesting, what would that reason be? no, there is no reason. emily: the show has been criticized for the portrayal of women. amanda crew, who plays the only recurring female character up to this point, said, "we are not trying to change silicon valley, we are trying to be a commentary on silicon valley. and that is what exists." do you agree? mike: yes. we are doing satire about it.
i mean, it's -- i think if we just came out with the show and it was every company was 50% women, 50% men, we would be doing a disservice by not calling attention to the fact that it is really 87% male. i think vc firms, partners are 94% male? alec: yes. mike: one of the guys i actually talked to early on was this guy, a system architecture guy on facebook. he said, by the way, there are no women. i said, it is still like that? it was like that when i was here. but i mean, if you're not -- we are doing satire. we are taking jabs at them for it. it is different than endorsing it, i think. emily: have you been following the ellen pao versus kleiner perkins trial? mike: yes. emily: now lawsuits have been filed with facebook and twitter. it certainly seems to be -- i mean, what is your take on the sexism issue in silicon valley?
mike: it is kind of surprising to me that it took this long for anything like this to happen. i mean, it has been male-dominated for -- i am old. i was in it in the 1980's. i am not surprised. i think engineers -- and this is, i am making a broad statement here -- but a lot of male engineers have this thing about women that goes back to women treating them badly in high school. or something. and maybe there is a little bit of that. alec: anything that is ripe for satire, obviously, i think we have a duty to the show to go after. if we can figure out an inspired way to hit it, absolutely. emily: would you work for an amazon studios? would you work for netflix? ♪
"seinfeld," "beavis and butthead," office space." mike: "king of the hill," "beavis and butthead," there was really no overall arc there. so that is different. i also have never done live-action television. i have done movies. you got 40 crew people standing behind you. i always have this feeling like, what if this thing sucks, and you worry about them snickering behind you. alec: season one, it is like if we screw it up nobody will notice. now that people are watching and we have gone a little buzz, we cannot fail quietly. emily: the entertainment landscape is so fragmented. it is certainly so different from the days of "seinfeld" and must-see tv on nbc. i wonder, it is so different for viewers, how is it different for writers and creators? alec: from the writing side, it does not feel much different to me. you have to do something that is good and make it as funny as you can and you can't listen to people who want to make it
something it is not. mike: one thing that is just different is the nature of hbo. almost no interference from the network. it is helpful when they give us notes. it is not bad. with networks, it is just all kinds of notes and things you cannot say. very weird standards. not that i am always trying to be foul mouthed and vulgar. it is just -- doing pay cable is just different, i guess. alec: they do not have advertisers. that is a whole huge -- they do not have to worry about offending anybody. they do not have to worry about, we take money from that airline, so we can't mention that airline. emily: what does hbo care about? what do they say they want from you? mike: they said they wanted something that seemed like -- originally, something that is uniquely yours. your own voice. that kind of thing. they have really just -- it has been nothing but 'let's get you what you want.' emily: would you work for an amazon studios? would you work for netflix? mike: sure.
not for the next year or two. i am under contract. [laughter] emily: but have you been impressed with what they are producing? alec: i think when you're not making that many shows, like amazon and netflix aren't, there is an emphasis on quality because you have to put something out that people are excited about. and for us, that is the greatest thing in the world. they want to spend a lot on something and their only stipulation is that it has to be really good? sign me up. emily: so should, like, a comcast, be worried? mike: probably. i guess they should be worried. i guess if they are not worried, they should be. i am sure they are. who knows. emily: what is next for you guys? is this it? are you having fun? how long do you want to keep doing this show? alec: it is funny. when we wrap the shoot -- we write for four or five months and then we shoot for about four months and then we edit for about three or four months, and
then it is time to start writing again. so when we wrap the show, there is this thing going around the crew the next couple of days, what is the next gig, and they always ask us, what are you working on? i am working on this. when i am done working on this, i am going to start working on this again. [laughter] there is nothing else at this point. mike: i get two weeks off. alec: it is embarrassing that it takes us as long as it takes to do 10 episodes of this jerky show, but that is the reality. it takes a year. mike: this is more like doing three movies in a year. that is what it feels like. but it is 10 episodes. that is -- i don't know. seems like it should feel easier, be easier, but it is not. but i love doing it. emily: when do you start thinking about season three? mike: june. alec: we may be gathering material as we speak. emily: ok. i think we have a good spit up moment. i think that could be written into season three. alec: season three, season of the spit take. emily: all right, mike judge and
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